DHAKA, Bangladesh

The Bangladesh government is reviewing an appeal that was forwarded to the Home Ministry seeking a further stay on opposition party chief Khaleda Zia’s prison sentence and the relaxation of her bail conditions. 

Shamim Iskandar, the younger brother of Zia, a three-time former prime minister and current chairperson of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has appealed to the Home Ministry to extend the stay on her sentence on health grounds, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters Wednesday in Dhaka.

“We have already taken the official procedure of forwarding the application to the Law Ministry following an application in this regard on Tuesday, and further decisions on the appeal will be taken after consulting with the Law Ministry,” Kamal said.

“Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is always supportive and cordial of such cases, as far as humanitarian issues are concerned. We hope that the prime minister will consider the issue positively,” he added, hinting at a further extension of the suspension order on Zia’s prison term.

Earlier, the government released Zia from prison at the direction of Sheikh Hasina, suspending her sentence for six months on the condition that she received medical treatment at her home in Dhaka and would not be allowed to travel abroad during the period.

Zia’s family members also wanted to take her abroad for treatment as her health had not improved since her release and she could not avail ‘proper treatment’ because she had to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, the minister quoted the letter as saying.

After failing to secure her release through a legal battle, Zia’s family members appealed and the government suspended her prison sentence on March 25 last year. She was released for six months on health grounds through an executive order.

Her release was later extended again, but the second term will end on March 15 this year.

Zia, 74, has been serving a 17-year sentence related to dozens of graft charges since February 2018. Her party and lawyers, however, claim these cases are politically motivated.

The government, including Prime Minister Hasina, rejects these allegations.

Zia is the widow of assassinated former President Ziaur Rahman and is now staying at home in Dhaka and receiving treatment under the supervision of a government hospital due to her ailing health.

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